So, whilst I am so unceremoniously stuck at the motorway services waiting to be retrieved, I thought I’d cheer myself up by posting today’s spine-tingling Supernatural Short. Courtesy of Kat Ellis, this story will suck you in, chew you up and spit you back out – literally! Check out this fantastic writer on Twitter. You won’t regret it.
The Ghouls of Gronwyn Valley
by Kat Ellis
Tegid shouldered the shotgun and aimed low. The blast echoed through the valley like a death knell as the whole door exploded—not just the lock as he’d imagined. Splinters of wood rained down on him, but he shrugged them off.
Once the ringing in his ears had faded, Tegid listened for the sound of anyone approaching. Of course no-one would. In the perpetual gloom of Gronwyn Valley, there were only four farms and the hospital, and all but one had fallen derelict. Tegid’s farm hadn’t made a penny all year, the animals growing sicker and withering more and more as the months past. It wouldn’t be long before the bank came knocking.
If this works, at least Mari’ll get a few bob out of it, and without my blood splashed across the walls.
The insurance pay-out would be enough to keep her comfortably for a few years, at least. He owed her that, and if this was the only way to make certain she was happy…well, he loved her. That was that.
The sheep bleated a warning from lower in the valley as Tegid stepped over the remnants of the door. The Victorian scrollwork along the ceiling faded to invisibility a few feet past the threshold, but it was as though the darkness was bleeding outwards instead of the light dwindling. Tegid was forced to rummage in his backpack for a torch. He hadn’t planned on being there long, but he’d prepared well nonetheless.
Tegid set the shotgun next to the splintered doorframe. He wouldn’t be needing it.
Broken glass and other detritus crunched under his boots as he moved through the darkened corridors of the hospital. The tiled floor had once been grand, Tegid remembered. Mosaic lily pads or something of the sort. Now, in the narrow beam of his torch, the place looked dusty, lifeless, as though no living thing had ever traced the outline of the images in the floor tiles.
Dust motes swirled ahead of him, stirred by the cockroaches scuttling away from the light. Tegid heard them moving, probably trod on a few, but it didn’t matter. This was the place where all manner of creatures came to die—Tegid included.
Gronwyn Valley Hospital had once housed some of the most unfortunate souls. Now, the asylum stood empty, the only inhabitants the creaking floorboards and drafts whispering through broken window panes.
Tegid whistled to himself as he explored the ground floor, just to break the silence. Most of the rooms were empty, or had only the battered remains of furniture left by those seeking to prove their mettle in coming here. But as Tegid ventured farther and farther into the hospital, the signs of intrusion tapered to nothing. Those who had preceded him hadn’t come this far, had turned and fled the building before the other residents could catch them.
Tegid wouldn’t flee. He wanted them to catch him, needed them to.
Decades-old bottles and tubes and jars lined the walls in the examination rooms overlooking the hospital’s inner courtyard. Tegid took down a jar and looked at it, a thick brown substance glooping against the inside when he tipped the label toward the light of his torch.
Patient #2483. Cerebral matter.
The jar slid from his hand and smashed against the corner of the examination table. He jumped back, avoiding the spatter except where a thick glob landed on his boot. Tegid angled his foot to scrape the brown goo off against the table leg, gagging as the odour wafted up to his nostrils. The smell was almost tangible, a cloying, noxious assault against his senses.
He left quickly, boots echoing like canon fire as he went deeper into the old building. Instinct told him that he wouldn’t find what he was looking for on this level. The torch beam panned left to right and back again as he wandered the windowless hallways. The walls were unmarred by graffiti, but something had left handprints on the grime-covered plaster. Small handprints, but they had left scratches in the paint like claw marks.
The blackness gaped to his left, and Tegid shone the light into it to reveal a narrow staircase. He took it two steps at a time, not wanting to admit that his nerves were starting to fray.
The moment he stepped out onto the middle floor, he knew he was getting closer. He entered the first room, floorboards groaning beneath him. The air felt different, like stagnant water freshly disturbed. And Tegid wasn’t the one who had disturbed it.
The door swung shut behind him, and at the same moment, Tegid’s torch went out.
They know I’m here.
His heart pounded in his chest, but he didn’t run. Darkness wrapped around him like a cloak, the only light in the room filtered by decades of dirt on the single window. He fixed his eyes on it, gritted his teeth.
This was what he had come for—to give Mari the life he had promised her.
“Come on then! I’m here, what are you waiting for?”
His yell hung in the air for a moment, a weightless entity, before he heard their response. From above his head, on the uppermost floor of the old building, they stirred. Creaking, scratching sounds at first, like he had woken them. Tegid took a deep breath, telling himself as he opened the grubby sash window that he was only opening it to let in some fresh air, not to assess it as a means of escape.
I wonder how many have tried to escape this same way.
The inmates, certainly. But a number of people had travelled to Gronwyn Valley Hospital since it had first closed, looking to dispel the myth of the ghouls. Many had entered its shadowed corridors. None had left with their heart still in their chest.
The mist rolled low down the hillside, closer, reaching out for him. Tegid took a step back, but his eyes stayed on the window. Clung to it. Tegid’s grandfather had said the mist fell as a warning, that the ghouls would come out of hiding under its cover. He’d laughed when the old man had said that.
The banging started. Above him, coming closer.
They were moving through the top floor, every piece of furniture slamming against the floorboards, every door of every room wrenched open before crashing shut. The wall of noise came closer every second, like a tidal wave.
Tegid was about to lean his head out through the window when it dropped like the blade of a guillotine, the glass pane cracking into a thousand lethal shards. The banging from upstairs hadn’t diminished, but it had focused in one area, and Tegid knew what that meant: they were coming down the stairs.
Tough it out, man! You’re doing this for Mari, and she deserves better than a coward.
Still, Tegid couldn’t bring himself to move away from the window. If he were a real man, like his grandfather had been, he would be marching out through the tall oak door to meet them. A man who would die on his own terms, if that was the only possible outcome.
There’s no if about it, he reminded himself. He stared through the dirt-laden glass at the valley rolling away into the distance. The mist shrouded Gronwyn from the outside world, wrapping around its inhabitants with a crushing embrace.
He hadn’t meant to say it aloud. He hadn’t meant to think it at all. But there was still fight left in him. He would find a way to earn the money they needed to keep the farm. He would.
But there was no way out now, except through the creatures swarming down the stairs to find him.
Fine. Through them it is.
His fingers had just touched the cold brass door handle when it turned. Tegid’s eyes widened, and then he was flat on his back, the door crashing open against the crumbling plaster. The wind had been knocked out of him, but as he lay trying to catch his breath, the floor cracked beneath him, and he was falling, the pale shapes of the ghouls writhing through the open door of the room above.
He landed on his back on the metal examination table, his head slamming down with a wet thud. Tegid blinked, unable to move any other part of his body, staring up at the hole in the ceiling. Pale eyes stared back at him from faces covered with translucent skin, peeled back where their lips should have been to reveal needle-sharp teeth.
Their claws clicked together—tap tap tap—as they watched Tegid. Just before his eyes closed, he swore they smiled. He tried to picture Mari’s face, to hold her in his mind, but all he saw were the ghouls, their teeth sharp and ready.
It was a different kind of clicking which greeted Tegid when he regained consciousness a few minutes later. Heels against concrete. Light, quick footsteps.
He blinked several times, hoping it was her, and not.
You shouldn’t be here, he wanted to yell, to shout for her to run, but breathing was hard and something hot bubbled between his lips when he tried moving. The ghouls were still peering from the hole in the ceiling above where he lay prone on the examination table, eyes reflective as marbles, skin like rubber stretched over jagged bones.
The clicking stopped, and Mari stood before him in the doorway. Tegid tried to signal to her, rolled his eyes to the ceiling and back in the hope that she would look up, but Mari simply stared, his shotgun propped against her hip.
Yes! Shoot at them!
He willed her to see them, to take aim and shoot the damned things into oblivion.
Why is she just standing there?
Shock, he realised. It had to be shock at seeing the state of him. Tegid tried again to speak to her, but his words came out on a gurgle.
Well, you’ve bashed yourself up a goodun this time, lad, he thought.
“Be still, Tegid. It won’t be long now.”
She must have heard the shot and called an ambulance. Mind, they’ll be a while coming down from Tremonnen.
Tegid shifted as Mari raised the gun, more a flinch than a movement as every nerve ending in his body screamed in agony.
Then he realised one of the vile creatures must be behind him.
You’re aiming a bit low there, old girl!
“Don’t struggle, Teg. They don’t like their food moving, you see. It won’t hurt, I promise.”
The gun clacked against the buttons of her coat as she nestled it against her shoulder. Tegid struggled, coughed a cloud of blood up towards the creatures, then watched it lose against gravity and fall back towards his face.
“It’s feeding time.”